“Wake up Tina”, I say it low and with this deep voice, to sound sexy with. It’s too low; she’s passed out with a castle can on her lap and not about to hear my sexiness. Then I shake her, on the shoulder of course, because I’m not pervy or anything, tonight. She comes to and then we make a fumbling and stumbling exit from the car. My crummy little place (I lied earlier about it being snazzy and stuff – it’s cool though) is on the first floor. Two quick turns and a short flight of stairs and we’ll be on my floor. Only problem is the five doors we have to walk past to get to my door. I‘ll tell you what the issue is here. Patience, my people. There is a tenant in the flat two doors from mine. Yes. A girl. Pretty. We have … well, had relations … of sorts … and so she is a bit bitchy whenever I bring a girl up to my cave. We had an agreement, I thought we had, we didn’t. So crazy when a girl just decides you’re now in a bleeding relationship and stuff and the whole time I’m just in it for a spot of fun. Girls. They’re nice and all, I mean, I totally love them, oh but the way things just go from here to there. A guy can’t walk up to the cashier to pay for a pack of cigarettes and then be asked to fill out a loan for a damn mortgage … that’s how I feel about these girls.
There is no drama tonight though. I’m not in the mood for that. One never is … as you can imagine. I tip-toe past the tokoloshe’s flat. Titina is sportingly quiet too. She could be tired or just in a bit of a slump. I’ll re-ignite her soon enough though, of this I am sure. I have a good strain of cannabis indica. Not to be confused with the horrible stuff which makes you either sleepy, or worse, anxious and paranoid and hungry for things resembling food. Jah Para is my guy; which is to say that there is a guy who goes by this name and whenever I want to purchase some crushed marijuana for non-medicinal use, he is the person to whom I make a phone call, and, pay for and pick up, my narcotics from. So Jah Para is my guy.
I learnt, early on in my sordid descent into adulthood, that on arrival in a land, foreign or otherwise, two things must be located without avoidable delay: the location of cheap lodgings and an agreeable woman to share them with, and, at the same level of imminence, a guy. I have had delightful times from following this imperative. There have also been a few mishaps but they have made for good stories – after the wounds healed. I shall tell you about some incidents at some time. One singular story happened in Amaveni Township, involved a wench called MaZambia, lots of lion lager (yuck, I know) and a brush with the filthy arm of the law.
When I walk into my snazzy little flat with Titina, I become Chamu and proceed to roll a big fat joint with unwavering conviction and intense focus.
My circumstances considerably improved and yet my sensibilities heightened, I light. I have long since stopped putting in that little twist at the business end of a joint. It lights with ease. Chamu within me looks around and takes in the more amenable lodgings – I in turn, tune in to my awakened thoughts. The ideas within me. At base, the place is a book and vinyl record collection with living quarters attached to it. Conveniences, a bathroom and a kitchen, also a bed – all accompaniments to the two or so thousand books lining the improvised shelves. Titina closes her eyes while drawing in a deep drag – when she opens her eyes again she scans over the bound literature and picks up a well-thumbed copy of Black Skin, White Masks. I cringe slightly. Tonight is not the night to be defending my blackness.
“This guy is nuts. I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying.” She says this with a fair amount of earnestness. I almost take her seriously. “I suffered through this book in school.”
“It’s not him. What he’s saying is simple enough to understand; I think it’s just shitty translation.” I can really say stuff to charm a girl when I’m in the mood for it.
“Yeah, but Metamorphosis is also translated but it’s easy to read … and it’s a classic.” She retorts with a little pout.
“Yeah, but that book is shit. I don’t understand what the fuss is about it. See now that’s the opposite, a case of decent translation of a shit book.” I’m really getting stuck in here.
“Well I’ve read it in Russian and it’s a beautiful bit of writing.” She spits an end to THAT debate.
Any case, I grab the joint from her and decide to flip a record onto the turntable. The turntable is a sure panty dropper. Have a CD player, or worse, a cassette deck, and my friend, you will be spooning pillows instead ofa nubile lass. But a turntable; those wooden jobs they used to do up to the eighties, Tempest and such; have one of those in your cave and you’ll be hiring security to keep pretty girls away. Place a record on a turntable and sex can happen quite swiftly in that gap between curiosity and intrigue. A Love Supreme – Side A. She carries on going through the books on the shelves and mumbling intelligent nothings and unrequested book reviews.
Coltrane fires off the opening salvo on Acknowledgement and I start playing my air sax. Happens every time. Can’t help myself. Titina though; she’s still swooping down and getting back up again. Bending in and turning her head to the side to read a title and then turning the other way to read another. I really must apologize to her. The way these books are stacked. It’s my fault. It really is. And if she slips a disc from all this twisting and turning I really would find it hard to forgive myself. I would, soon enough, but I would find it hard to – is what I’m saying.
Acknowledgement is quite laid back. It doesn’t go all Coltrane like Resolution does, if you must know. I could listen to the first part of A Love Supreme and whistle along and play my air sax and just carry on doing whatever I was doing. Casually. But, if Resolution comes on, I mean, and it’s not just dude’s sax. But also the keys on that joint! My God! I didn’t know who McCoy Tyner was before I heard that piano. I mean, ok, I knew who he was, I had seen him and heard him on a few other Trane jams, BUT, when I HEARD him on Resolution, Good Lord! Praise God Almighty! Which is all to say I get quite crazy when this tune starts playing. When I’m alone in my crummy place and I flip the disc and start head-banging and stuff that’s all cool; but now I have to strain to contain myself when I play it with a girl, oh mercy, it’s so hard!
“I said, I like this book!” She is waving my tatty copy of Moby Dick about. She persists. I ignore. She persists.
“Have you read this book!?” she screams and I can’t take it anymore. I feel like replying her like that goddamn Forrester guy that Sean Connery plays in Finding Forrester. I feel like answering, “No, I haven’t read it. I just keep all these books here to impress all the visitors I get.” Instead, what I say to Titina is, “Yeah, I love it, it’s one of my favourite books.” And it really is.
See, I’m rather partial to literature by Americans. It’s not a conscious thing or anything. Hollywood hasn’t played that one on me. Nope. I just did a quick top five and realized it was all Hemingway, Heller, Lee, Steinbeck and Melville. In no particular order of course. And then she says THE most irreverent thing – one of, let me say – this is what she says, “I totally love this book about the whale – he’s my favourite character.”
Now, after that kid with the swollen tummy and the buzzing fly, my second worst character in the 21st century is that sect of humans who refer to Moby Dick as “that book about a whale”. I guess, you know, you can make any book be about whatever you want it to mean to you or whatever –but… to add the actual whale as a favourite character. Bulkington would love to have a brief word with all these people. Good old Bulkington, now there’s a fellow if ever there was one! Also, the buzzing fly might as well be the favourite character in the Donor burlesque on these shores.
And all this right in the middle of A Love Supreme.